To the point week of 10-23-08

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YESTERDAY (WEDNESDAY) I REALIZED how old I am becoming. Many times you’ve read about my trials and experiences with my oldest daughter, Abby. You’ve also read about my middle daughter, Emily; but I haven’t really spent much time writing about my youngest daughter, Hilary.

I’ve always told people that I have three daughters because I didn’t want four; and that if Hilary would have been born first, she would have been an only child. I don’t know what it is, but I guess that as you have more children, the combination of getting older and suddenly being outnumbered begins to take its toll on parents.

Hilary was born in 1992, just a couple of weeks before Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as president. Naming her “Hilary” caused many people to ponder if we named her after the First Lady, but in truth, she’s named after Hilary Bell, a lady who used to teach here in Switzerland County with my wife.

From the very beginning, we’ve always known that she was a special and unique person. She was very independent – VERY independent – from a very early age, and she redefined the term “tomboy” from the get-go. Being the youngest, she quickly learned how to stick up for herself with her older sisters, and she was truly a child who never met a stranger. She was on a first name basis with the world.

We always knew that she was special, but we found out how special when she was just three years old. We were playing a game in the living room, and my wife and I had a feeling that Hilary wasn’t hearing things quite right. We would look at her and ask her to do something, and she would do it. When we covered our mouths and asked the same question, she would reach up and pull our hand away.

At an early age, she was reading lips to compensate for her hearing loss. By the end of December, three-year old Hilary was wearing hearing aids in both ears – and we braced ourselves for what would come next.

I remember a doctor warning us that, because of her hearing loss, Hilary wouldn’t be as “outgoing” as our other two daughters. For those who know her, we are thankful that she’s not more outgoing – because we wouldn’t be able to stand her.

She was honored as the Switzerland County ‘Little Miss’ after proclaiming that she wanted to be a fireman, because “she wanted to drink from that big hose”; and although she was the shortest child in her grade, she didn’t shy away.

Hilary has always attacked life head on, and hasn’t let very many things slow her down. Don’t tell her that she can’t do something, because you’re about to be proven wrong. Being little hampered her in athletics, but when she did participate, she never used her size as a crutch; and now that she’s moved on from sports, she’s busy with her music and playing the guitar.

She has never allowed a single thing to define her as a person – and that’s a lesson that we all need to learn.

I proudly tell you that she’s an outstanding student, but she would like nothing more than to sit in the back of a classroom (her hearing situation means that she’s front row, center in almost every class). Teachers tell me that she “sneaks” to the back every now and then; but she always gets caught and brought back up front.

I am also proud that she is a person with a deep faith. She has never used her age as a reason or an excuse not to share her faith, and she has positively impacted many of her peers and many others.

But if you ask my youngest daughter what she is absolutely obsessed with, she will quickly tell you that she cannot wait to get her driver’s license and drive a car. As a child she always wanted to drive something – anything – but living in town, she’s been limited in her chances to ride go-carts or dirt bikes or things like that.

But it’s all different now.

Because yesterday, October 22nd, Hilary Lanman turned 16 years old.

That means that in just over a month I will stand at my front door and I will watch her get in a car, start it, and drive away. I’ve done it twice before, but when it’s your youngest, it gives you a little pain in the heart.

As you read this, I am the parent of a 21-year old; an 18-year old; and a 16-year old. Ask a teen what the three major age threshholds are, and you’ll hear those three ages: 16, 18, and 21.

I have all three at the same time.

And I feel really old.

As Abby moves on with her life and Emily looks for a college; until now I’ve found comfort in knowing that at least Hilary will be home with me for a couple of more years.

I know, I’m fooling myself with that thought, because as soon as she gets car keys and a license, she’ll be that same independent person that she always has been.

So Happy Birthday, Hilary Catherine. Have fun growing up. Have fun driving.

Just not too fast.